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Lat's Legal Library (02.2023): Defending The Indefensible?
Notable new books about Sumner Redstone, Donald Trump, affirmative action, and shareholder capitalism.
Welcome to Original Jurisdiction, the latest legal publication by me, David Lat. You can learn more about Original Jurisdiction by reading its About page, and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a reader-supported publication; you can subscribe by clicking on the button below. Thanks!
Welcome to the latest Lat’s Legal Library (LLL), in which I highlight noteworthy new books about or related to the law. Although it’s not Oprah’s or Reese’s book club, I’m unaware of any other recurring roundup of legally themed literary endeavors, and I hope it’s useful to both readers and writers.
Up to this point, I’ve published LLL every other month, near the end of the month. Since the last edition was in November 2022, I was going to publish one in January 2023. But since there weren’t enough books to fill out my traditional ten, I postponed to this month. Going forward, I’ll try to resume bimonthly publication.
Since three months have passed since the last Lat’s Legal Library, I now have the opposite problem: too many books. Instead of the customary ten, I’m presenting you with 15 titles. As usual with LLL, I haven’t had the chance to read all these books yet; they have come to my attention through media coverage, reader recommendations, or publicist pitches (and—disclosure—I have received review copies of some of them).
Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy, by James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams. Debuting at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list is Unscripted, a deep dive into the final years of Sumner Redstone, the late billionaire and media mogul. Although the book would officially get categorized under business rather than law, lawyers figure prominently in its pages because many of Redstone’s relationships involved complex legal issues—and spawned lots of lawsuits (which Stewart, a Harvard Law alum and former Cravath associate, was well-equipped to untangle). In a rave review on the cover of the Times Book Review, Adam Davidson of the New Yorker praises Unscripted’s “elegant” writing and “weird and compelling” story.
People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account, by Mark Pomerantz. In another buzz-generating book about a manipulative, megalomaniac billionaire, former Paul Weiss partner Mark Pomerantz pulls back the curtain on his work at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which he joined out of retirement to investigate possible criminal conduct by former president Donald Trump. Kirkus Reviews commends the book as a “convincingly damning case that dives deep into the tangles of both law and finance.” (As I previously mentioned, there’s controversy over the legal ethics of the book; for his part, Pomerantz told the New York Law Journal that his book is “legal, ethical, and in the public interest.”)
The January 6 Report, by the January 6 Committee and Ari Melber (foreword). The misdeeds of Donald Trump are front and center in the report of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, now in book form. Even if you followed the Committee’s proceedings closely, you might still be interested in the book, thanks to the original foreword by lawyer turned Emmy-winning MSNBC anchor Ari Melber (who also has a Substack newsletter).
Who Says You Can’t? Strategies and Tactics for Becoming a More Creative Criminal Defense Lawyer, by Jon May. Trump could use some talented criminal-defense lawyers right now—and they might benefit from reading this book by Jon May, who has been practicing criminal law for more than 40 years. According to fellow defense attorney Elizabeth Kelley, who also has a new book out (see below), “If you are a federal criminal defense lawyer, if you are fearless, creative, and zealous, if you believe in the full panoply of Sixth Amendment promises and protections, then Jon May’s ‘Who Says You Can’t’ is a must.”
Representing People With Dementia: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers, by Elizabeth Kelley (editor). Representing defendants with dementia presents challenges—and this book offers a wealth of advice, from mental-health experts, academics, and attorneys. As Kelley explains, it is “an attempt to help those who, because of dementia, are fragile, bewildered, and vulnerable—and to give their attorneys the tools to obtain a just and fair resolution to their case.”
May It Please the Campus, by Patricia E. Salkin. The talents of lawyers can be deployed in many contexts besides the courtroom—and one of them is the campus, reflected in the striking number of lawyers who have become university presidents. That’s the subject of this book by Salkin, former dean of Touro Law, which former Brooklyn Law dean Nick Allard lauds as “original, engaging, provocative, comprehensive, and data driven… a must read for anyone who cares about academic leadership and the future of higher education.”
Outside In: The Oral History of Guido Calabresi, by Norman I. Silber. A great leader in the world of legal education was Guido Calabresi, a legendary dean at Yale Law School before becoming a judge on the Second Circuit. In Outside In, Professor Norman Silber of Hofstra Law tells Judge Calabresi’s remarkable life story, based on recorded interviews that took place over a decade. As Professor Paul Horwitz explains, the result is “a unique amalgam of oral history and biography, with supplementary commentaries to explain, elaborate, validate, and interpret and situate the personal narrative within its larger historical context.”
Never Far from Home: My Journey from Brooklyn to Hip Hop, Microsoft, and the Law, by Bruce Jackson. Microsoft associate general counsel Bruce Jackson has also had a remarkable life in the law, rising from childhood poverty in pre-gentrification New York to a high-powered legal career at the top of the music and technology industries. According to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, “In grappling with the complexity of his own childhood—from poverty’s pernicious effect on his neighbors to early encounters with a flawed criminal justice system—Jackson asks his readers to confront the systemic inequalities that continue to plague communities of color across our nation.”
American Inheritance: Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation, 1765-1795, by Edward J. Larson. The origins of racial inequalities go back to the Founding, which Professor Edward Larson of Pepperdine Law explores in American Inheritance—”a wise and balanced account of the founding era’s thorniest themes: liberty, equality, slavery, and race,” in the words of Professor Akhil Amar.
A Legacy of Discrimination: The Essential Constitutionality of Affirmative Action, by Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone. How should we address both the legacy of past discrimination and discrimination that exists in the present day? I’m no fan of affirmative action—but to defend this embattled policy, I can think of few better advocates than Lee Bollinger and Geoffrey Stone. Per Professor Laurence Tribe, “In this brilliant history and reassessment of our still unfinished journey of race, President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University and Professor Geoffrey Stone, formerly Dean of the Chicago Law School, put the long-simmering affirmative action debate in its urgent current context and reframe that debate in terms more faithful to what is truly at stake.”
A Short & Happy Guide to Judicial Clerkships, by Tessa Dysart. Are you thinking about clerking (which I recommend exploring if you’re interested in litigation)? Clerkships with federal judges like the aforementioned Judge Calabresi get the most attention. But there are many other great opportunities—with state, administrative, tribal, and international judges—ably explored in this accessible new book by Professor Tessa Dysart of University of Arizona Law.
Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships, by Debra M. Strauss. When I conducted my own clerkship search years ago, I appreciated the wise counsel of Debra Strauss, then the clerkships advisor at Yale Law. You can benefit from her advice as well, collected in Behind the Bench, now in its third edition.
The Profit Motive: Defending Shareholder Value Maximization, by Stephen M. Bainbridge. If you’re a longtime follower of the legal blogosphere, as many of my readers are, then you’re surely familiar with the wise and witty work of Professor Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA, who has been blogging for even longer than I have (since June 2003). In the latest of his many books, the prolific professor mounts a vigorous defense of shareholder capitalism and maximizing shareholder value, an important contribution to a timely and crucial debate.
The World Crisis and International Law: The Knowledge Economy and the Battle for the Future, by Paul B. Stephan. According to Professor Jack Goldsmith, Professor Paul Stephan’s book is “a must-read for understanding where international law is today.” Professor Matthew Waxman praises The World Crisis and International Law as “an incisive and original account of [the liberal world] order—including how it developed, what sustained it, and why it is unraveling.”
Beyond Data: Reclaiming Human Rights at the Dawn of the Metaverse, by Elizabeth M. Renieris. We’re all fascinated by ChatGPT and other powerful new AI tools—but are we paying enough attention to the threats that they and other technologies might pose to human dignity and autonomy? In Beyond Data, “Renieris illuminates profound and urgent privacy challenges that we must confront in a post-digital world and sketches out an intriguing human rights–based solution,” according to Professor Jonathan Zittrain.
If you clicked on any of the titles mentioned above, you might have noticed a change. In the past, when you clicked on a book title, it typically took you to that book’s Amazon page. Alas, the terms of the Amazon Associates program, through which I earn a (modest) amount from qualifying purchases by my readers, do not allow me to send out affiliate links in emails (including Substack newsletters). So now when you click on a title, you’ll be taken to a Google Doc containing affiliate links, which you can click on to purchase. I apologize for the inconvenience of this extra step.
The next installment of LLL will probably appear in late April. As always, I welcome nominations, but please note the timeframe: the book should ideally have been published after this roundup but before the next one, i.e., it will probably have a March or April publication date. I maintain this temporal limitation because the number of law-related books I could possibly recommend would be overwhelming otherwise. (I also stick to the books that are already available, as opposed to forthcoming books; while I understand the importance to authors of preorders, in my experience readers are more likely to buy a book if it’s already available.)
If there’s a law-related book outside my timeframe that you’d like to mention, please give it a shoutout in the comments. Thanks, and happy reading!
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